Injury Recoveries Faster, Cleaner Than Ever

Whether it's medicine, better athletes, increased training regimens -- or some combination of the three -- there's little doubt professional athletes are recovering from major injuries at a quicker rate than ever before.

When Carson Palmer takes the field Monday night, he will become the fourth starting quarterback coming off major offseason surgery to see game action in the preseason. Miami's Daunte Culpepper (knee), New Orleans' Drew Brees (shoulder) and the Jets' Chad Pennington (shoulder) have already seen significant preseason action following intense offseason rehab programs.

Culpepper, who is returning after injuring all three major ligaments in his knee, even ran the ball twice in last Thursday's game. That's an enormous step for a quarterback who relies so heavily on his legs.

"I wanted to show everybody that the injury is not an issue right now," Culpepper said. "I don't really worry about getting hit. I'm going to be smart about it when I can run the ball and get what I can get and get down.

"Sometimes, you've got to take a chance. That wasn't the time to do it."

Pennington and Brees could be heading up offenses that will struggle this season, but it's a credit to modern science, and their work ethics, that they're even able to attempt to work out the kinks during the preseason.

Palmer suffered his injury the most recently of the four, going down in Cincinnati's Wild Card playoff loss to Pittsburgh. But after seeing action Monday, he is expected to start the team's preseason finale Friday. Palmer said he has confidence in the knee and isn't concerned about taking his first big hit.

"My knee is strong enough to withstand (a hit)," said Palmer, who wears a brace on the knee.

The most remarkable recovery so far remains Culpepper's. He has played in all three preseason games, and is comfortable enough with his new offense that he will only see light action in the exhibition finale. His focus for the regular-season opener Sept. 7 has long since been about more than simply making it onto the field.

"We're trying to develop an offense, but at the same time we're trying to manage the development of a guy coming back from an injury," Dolphins coach Nick Saban said. "I think he's done better every week and we're pleased. He was obviously more comfortable in what he was doing, but whatever we get done with him in preseason is a bonus because initially we weren't even sure he'd be able to participate in the preseason."

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